Aid workers, civilians released in Nigeria


Islamist militants released three aid workers and civilians who had been held hostage since late December in north-east Nigeria, a United Nations official said.

They were kidnapped on December 22 by militants posing as soldiers who stopped a convoy travelling to Maiduguri, state capital of Borno.

Islamist militants have waged an insurgency in north-east Nigeria that killed 36 000 since 2009 and left over seven million people needing humanitarian assistance. Boko Haram, seeking a separate state in north-east Nigeria adhering to a strict interpretation of Islamic laws, began the insurgency.

“I am relieved some civilians, including three aid workers, abducted by non-state armed groups along the Monguno – Maiduguri road on 22 December 2019 were released yesterday and are now safe,” said Edward Kallon, UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Nigeria, in a statement.

Kallon was concerned about the “increasingly insecure environment humanitarians work in”. Twelve aid workers died in 2019, more than twice the 2018 number, making it one of the most dangerous years for humanitarian workers in Nigeria.

The UN did not say if the militants behind the abduction were associated with Boko Haram or a breakaway faction that pledged allegiance to Islamic State. The group — Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) — has in the last two years been the dominant insurgent group in Nigeria.

ISWAP in December said it executed 11 Christian captives kidnapped in Borno state.